Faculty and students rally outside University Center
February 17, 2011
Responding to Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, UW-River Falls students, staff, and city locals walked away from their daily responsibilities to protest at the University Center Thursday.
Wednesday night members of the UWRF campus community received an e-mail encouraging them to “walkout” at noon the next day.
The protest was set forth by a group called Falcons for a Fair Education. One of the leaders of that group is College Democrats President Matt Stauner.
Stauner said he has been collaborating with the union American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin.
UWRF faculty members have been working for several months on gaining collective bargaining rights under AFT-Wisconsin.
Students and faculty took turns speaking before a crowd of 500, according to an estimate by College Democrat and Student Senate Officer Tyler Halverson.
“It’s more about respect, and this bill is a huge slap in the face to the public employees,” said Halverson. “I think that the number of protesters that we have been seeing is a response to that.”
Xander Toftness, a freshman, said, he did not know much about the bill. After he read about the bill, however, he felt it was important to join the walkout.
Some of the students that spoke included Nikki Shonoiki, Halverson and Stauner. The faculty members who spoke included Michelle Parkinson, Kurt Leichtle and Timothy Lyden.
Before Parkinson went before the crowed, she said, “I am doing this because I love this place. I love the students here. I love my work, and I care about higher education.”
At the Feb. 15 Student Senate meeting, UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen spoke and answered questions about the bill.
“One of my main concerns is faculty retention,” said Van Galen.
Faculty are going to leave and it is going to be hard to attract any kind of worker with the cuts that are proposed in the bill, said Parkinson.
At the walkout, Kelly Jacobs, a senior, said that she was concerned about what this bill might mean for not only the faculty but also the people that they have to financially support at home.
Faculty member Lawrence Bennett said he walked out with the protesters because the issue at hand is an issue of rights.
“Protest of rights is something that we have been doing for hundreds of years,” said Bennett, “It is important that we stand together.”
The walkout was not met with favor from everyone.
Steve Nystrom, a junior and commuter, said it is an inconvenience because he didn’t know about the walkout until he arrived to the UWRF campus.
An e-mail sent to faculty and staff Thursday by UWRF Provost Fernando Delgado included an e-mail from a student who did not approve of the walkout by faculty and students. The student, who is also a commuter ,said that he expects an education and said he would be very upset if he drove to campus to find that his professors canceled class to protest.
Delgado provided a statement that acknowledged that the current situation surrounding the budget repair bill is difficult and disheartening. He also stated that faculty members need to ensure that they are meeting their obligations as educators in order to assure that learning can continue.